I love summertime BBQs, and I love a hot dog with all the condiments! I used to get nervous about spilling mustard because I didn’t want to ruin my outfit with a mustard stain.
My worrying about stains was making it hard for me to fully enjoy myself at summertime gatherings, so I took it upon myself to learn how to get mustard out of clothes.
My research confirmed my fears that, unfortunately, mustard is one of the toughest stains to remove due to its combination of turmeric and vinegar (source).
However, mustard stains are treatable so long as you use chemistry to your advantage and select the proper stain treatment method. Mustard is part of the oxidizable stain group and responds best to bleaching agents like sodium percarbonate or hydrogen peroxide (source and source).
This guide will detail what tools to use and different treatment options so that you are armed with the knowledge of how to get mustard out of clothes.
Why is Mustard So Hard to Get Out of Clothes?
Its turmeric base makes mustard incredibly tough to remove from fabric (source). Turmeric has been used as a fabric dye for centuries, so when it falls on your clothes, it intentionally easily stains (source).
Mustard and turmeric are part of the oxidizable stain group family, and stains from this family are best removed using bleaching agents like hydrogen peroxide or sodium percarbonate (source). Oxidizing agents like hydrogen peroxide break down the color-causing components of the chemical structures of the stain so that the stain becomes invisible!
How to Pre-Treat Mustard Stains
There are a variety of methods to pre-treat mustard stains. You’ll want to consider how fresh or old your stain is, if your fabric is dry clean only, your on-hand product options, and your preference for non-toxic vs. chemicals in order to determine which method is best for you.
Dish Soap and Water
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Fresh stains will have the best chance of removal with this gentle method.
Applying liquid dish soap and lathering it into the mustard stain will help to remove the stain.
- 32-fluid ounce bottle of first aid antiseptic
- First aid to help prevent risk of infection from minor cuts, scrapes and burns
- Active ingredient: 91% isopropyl alcohol
If your mustard stain is old or is extra tough to remove, dabbing isopropyl alcohol on the stain is a great follow-up after you have scraped the mustard off, blotted with water, applied dish soap, and rinsed under cold water.
The solvent properties in the isopropyl alcohol will break down the acidic mustard stain molecules.
Stain Removing Spray
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Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover Spray is a toxic-free stain remover. Sodium percarbonate is the main ingredient in this spray, which is an oxygen-based bleach that works by releasing hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide breaks down the stain molecules.
You’ll spray the stain, work it in, leave it for 5 – 10 minutes, and wash it as usual. Ideally, you’ll spray the stain immediately, but this can work on stains that have been set for a while if needed.
If you anticipate encountering mustard stains while away from home, this stain-removing spray is also sold in travel sizes! Pop one in your purse or bag and keep it with you so you are armed against any stain accidents.
Color-Safe Bleach can be used as a stain spot cleaner. You’ll dab the color-safe bleach into the stain, wait 5 – 10 minutes, and then machine wash as usual. Allow the garment to air dry.
Color-Safe Bleach, not to be confused with chlorine bleach, uses hydrogen peroxide as the active ingredient. Hydrogen peroxide is effective at removing acidic stains like mustard stains by breaking up the chemical bonds to make the stain invisible.
Chlorine bleach, which uses the active ingredient sodium hypochlorite, is used to decontaminate by inactivating bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Chlorine bleach should be avoided when treating mustard stains because it might make the stain yellow. Moreover, chlorine bleach is only safe to use on white fabrics. Stick with color-safe bleach when treating mustard stains!
This formula by Seventh Generation is chlorine-free, so it’s safe to use on colors. It uses hydrogen peroxide and water, which is exactly what you want when fighting an oxidizing stain like mustard (source).
RELATED: Best Color Safe Bleach
- One 3 lb container of OxiClean Free Versatile Stain Remover Powder with 101 uses and counting for laundry and around the home
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For tougher or older stains, you’ll want to do an overnight soak. Mix warm/hot water with a powdered stain removal product like OxiClean or Borax (roughly ½ cup of powdered stain removal for every gallon of water). Soak your stained item for 1 hour up to overnight.
The longer soaking time allows more time for the stain removal product and water to soak into your fabric and, ultimately, a longer time to break down the molecules in the stain.
Borax is composed of boron, sodium, and oxygen, creating an alkaline formula that breaks down acidic stains like mustard. Borax is a versatile household product; you might already have it on hand, making it easy to use when treating a stain.
OxiClean is composed of sodium percarbonate, sodium carbonate, surfactants, and polymer and breaks down stains and emulsifies oils to lift them off surfaces. OxiClean is generally only used with laundry, so if you are not already an OxiClean user, you might need to make a trip to buy some before using it on your mustard stain.
Don’t worry about fabrics degrading when overnight soaking. So long as you follow the quantity instructions (½ cup of powdered stain removal per gallon of water), your garment will be safe.
Dry-Clean Only Fabrics
For dry-clean-only items, head to your local dry cleaners ASAP. Be sure to point out the stain so they do not miss it. You can attach a clothespin or safety pin to mark the stain and make it easy to find.
Dry-clean-only items are treated with a solvent called perchloroethylene, which helps to dissolve grease, oil, and wax without damaging fabric. The dry cleaner will spot-treat your stain with a solvent instead of water, which is typically delicate on fabrics but tougher on stains.
- DRY-CLEAN SAFE: Safely removes stains on dry clean only clothes, delicates and hand-washables
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- SOFT TOUCH TIP: The unique soft-touch pen tip allows you to scrub to elimiate stubborn stains easily
If you are on the go and unable to get to a dry cleaner quickly, Dryel is a great option.
To use Dryel, first, you’ll remove excess residue from the stain. Next, you’ll place a napkin behind it and squeeze the pen, using it like an eraser to eliminate the stain.
If you are wearing the garment and are truly on the go, you can let it air dry while wearing it. Once you get home, launder the garment as usual, which will likely mean taking it to the dry cleaners.
How to Remove Mustard Stains Step-by-Step
Tools and Materials:
- Stain Treatment (see above for a list of options)
- Cleaning cloth
How to Get Mustard Out of Clothes:
- Scrape Off or Blot Any Excess Liquid from the Fabric
Scrape off or blot excess liquid from the fabric as quickly as possible. A butter knife is helpful when scraping off excess mustard, especially if the mustard is dried on the fabric.
A sponge or a cleaning cloth can be used to blot wet mustard from the fabric.
- Run the Stain under Cold Water
Running the stain under cold water allows the water to penetrate the fabric and rinse the stain through the fabric.
- Apply Stain Pre-Treatment
When it comes to pre-treating mustard stains, you have a lot of options. See the list of pre-treatment options above and select the option that works best for your garment and the severity and age of the stain.
Whichever you choose, you’ll apply the treatment, lather it into the stain, and then rinse in clean, cold water.
- Launder the Garment
After pre-treating a stain properly, it’s time to wash it as you usually would, either by hand or by machine.
- Air Dry
- Repeat until the Stain Clears Completely
If the stain is still visible after air drying, repeat the entire process again as needed.
Final Thoughts On Removing Mustard Stains & Next Steps
Hopefully, like me, you now feel well-armed to attend BBQs and enjoy as much mustard as you’d like without fear of spilling.
When treating a mustard stain, keep in mind factors like stain age, your preferred and on-hand products, and fabric care instructions. This will guide you in choosing the right method for successful stain removal.
You’ll now be able to enjoy hot dogs and mustard without worrying about spills or mustard stains!
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- The Ultimate Guide to Clothing Stain Removal